Seven Secrets to Peak Performance During Divorce Litigation
INTRODUCTION Stress is a direct result of a person being focused on, and trying to control the "un-controllable" external forces and events in their divorce (i.e., judges, tactics or stunts of the other party, economic or business conditions, reactions of friends and family, etc.). When a person focuses on these uncontrollable external forces, he/she is more likely to experience the high stress-related symptoms and the resulting questionable thinking and judgments that can follow. Here are some ways to cope with the stress of litigation more effectively.
HAVE A PERSONAL VISION THAT IS NOT CONNECTED TO THE OUTCOME OF THE LITIGATION The biggest challenge for people involved in divorce is to stay focused on what matters to them personally and to avoid becoming trapped in the daily chaos of the divorce/litigation process. Litigation always ends (15 months seems to be about average for divorce litigation in the US). In the meantime, remaining connected to the things that provide real meaning to life and committed to something bigger than and outside of one’s self is a critical component of successful coping.
UNDERSTAND THE STRESS/PERFORMANCE CURVE Divorce is stressful and requires additional energy and attention not needed during less stressful times. This is not the time to “relax”, but it is a time to understand that being either too “relaxed” or to “hyped up” can interfere with peak performance. The graphic illustrates the relationship between stress and performance. Notice that peak performance is in the middle, so the goal is to use your body’s natural responses to maintain levels of stress that are neither too high nor too low. Regular routines, regular exercise, and good nutrition contribute to the ability to operate at peak levels.
LEARN COPING SKILLS THAT HELP TO MANAGE STRESS SYMPTOMS Here are the strategies that have been proven to lower your stress symptoms.
• First have a regular daily routine that includes 8 hours of sleep and regular times for going to bed and getting up and stick to it (A disrupted sleep schedule for one night lowers your body’s ability fight infection by more than 50% for the following day).
• Second, walk or do some aerobic exercise for 30 minutes every day (It will take your body more than two hours to calm down after this so don’t exercise right before bedtime).
• Third, eat more fruit and protein and few carbs a minimum of three meals and preferably 5 smaller meals per day (but none late in the evening).
• Finally, spend 15-30 minutes per day sitting quietly in a chair in a quiet room and focus only on your breathing (or listening to a relaxation tape). All of these strategies will improve your performance by increasing your stress tolerance, and the effects are cumulative-the more things on this list that you do, the greater the benefit.
LEARN HOW TO BE GRATEFUL IN THE PRESENT One of the natural and unavoidable effects of stress on every human being is a narrowing of perceptions- “tunnel vision” that can make the stressful situation appear to consume the entire world. The anti-dote to this tunnel vision is a constant and intentional focus on a daily “gratitude journal”. This means making a written list of the five things in life that you are most grateful for AT THIS MOMENT. For many divorcing people, first on the list is their children, but the list is different for each person. An intentional focus on the good things in life counteracts a world of temporary if overwhelming situations by reminding us of the more important and enduring parts of life.
MAKE TIME TO PLAY AND HAVE FUN The surest way to perform poorly, during divorce or not, is by being too serious. Peak performance in everything comes out of having fun. While the circumstances of divorce make having fun a bit more challenging, they also make having fun more important. Many people immediately eliminate recreation when they get overwhelmed and frantic, and report that they “don’t have time for anything fun”. Peak performance depends on giving your body and mind a break; make time for fun.
SEPERATE SELF-WORTH FROM PERFORMANCE Whether in marriage or divorce, you are NOT defined by your successes nor by your failures, but rather how you handle both. Learn to separate your value as a person from your performance at the same time that you learn to get better at handling both success and failure. When your personal worth is on the line for every decision you make, you are making a difficult situation even more challenging by increasing your own stress level. Give yourself a break and remind yourself of your inherent value regardless of your performance. You’ll feel better and you will do better!
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Practice living life like you want it to be, even if you can only do it for a few minutes at first. Focus on what you want for yourself, your family, your career, your home, your relationships. Most people are much more resilient than they give themselves credit for, so focus on your track record for bouncing back to boost your confidence that you can succeed.
In contrast to peak performance in athletics, peak performance during divorce holds the possibility of being transformational in a way that no other life experience can be. Because divorce dissolves so many of a person’s life structures and expectations, it creates an opportunity to rebuild them in a new and better way that can lead to a much happier and more satisfying life. Seize the moment!